World

Plague in Madagascar hits urban areas, kills 2 dozen people

The outbreak has spurred fears and a rush on surgical masks and other medical supplies.

Alexander JOE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The outbreak has spurred fears and a rush on surgical masks and other medical supplies.

JOHANNESBURG — Authorities in Madagascar are struggling to contain an outbreak of the plague that has killed two dozen people in recent weeks and has prompted a ban on large public gatherings in the capital to curb the disease’s spread.

The dead include a basketball coach from the Seychelles who was participating in a tournament in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. Five people have died in the capital, reported L’Express de Madagascar, a daily newspaper.

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The government has begun disinfecting schools in the city, compelling students to stay home. Many people have bought surgical masks and medical supplies in large quantities, raising concerns about a medicine shortage.

‘‘Once everybody hears that this is a major thing, everyone runs out and buys everything at the pharmacy,’’ said Joshua Poole, the Madagascar representative for Catholic Relief Services. ‘‘Access to those essential items is a challenge.’’

Poole said the death of the coach from the Seychelles had attracted more international attention to this year’s outbreak of plague, which is endemic to Madagascar.

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